A woman just recently asked me, “Is it normal to feel so disconnected at church?”
Her question was a little surprising, because she is a very friendly and welcoming person who doesn’t seem to be the type of person who would have trouble making friends. But she did remind me of how difficult it is to make real and lasting connections as adult women and how desperately we all need that connection.
I remember how lonely I was when I first moved to Vancouver after finishing grad school. I had moved across the country and left my family and some wonderful deep friendships to follow the boy. It was the first time I had ever felt really lonely and disconnected from other women. It was such a strange sensation for me as I had never had problems making friends when I was young. Even as a child in a small, farm-town where I was the only Asian kid in my class, God brought big-hearted girls into my life who chose to befriend me. And throughout my childhood into my teenage and young adult years, deep friendships were a norm for me. This wasn’t because of my wonderful personality (haha!), but because I believe it was God’s way of giving me a family, outside of the chaos and dysfunction of my own immediate family.
But then I moved to Vancouver, and it was no longer easy to just connect deeply with other women. And trust me, I tried. I would invite women over to my house for girls’ nights, invite ladies out for dinner, and try and initiate deeper conversations with other women. But to no avail. It was hard to break into friendships that had been formed since childhood and people seemed to be uncomfortable with the idea of going deeper in conversations. It was my one major prayer in my first several years living here, that I would find good solid female friendships – women I knew deeply and who truly knew me and would be there for me when it really counted. And so I prayed and kept putting myself out there and finally somewhere between 5-7 years after having moved to Vancouver, I finally felt like I had a few good solid friends that were my “circle”. But it took a long time and it was probably one of the loneliest and most insecure moments in my life.
It’s not surprising that women and especially women who have school, careers and families are having difficulty finding solid friendships in church. It’s a proven fact that building and maintaining friendships is one of the first things that drops to the bottom of a woman’s to-do list when she gets stressed or busy with life (although it would actually be more effective to spend time with a friend to process or vent, as bonding with other women releases calming and stress-reducing hormones like oxytocin). Studies have shown that women who have close friendships are healthier and happier and actually live longer. But somehow when we get busy, we lose sight of the strength we provide each other and the healing benefits we derive from our friendships. We need to reframe the way we think about friendships, not just as something that’s for our own fun and pleasure, but something that’s necessary and important for our overall health, just like eating well and exercising.
So what did I say to this woman who was feeling disconnected from others at church? I encouraged her to keep putting herself out there, to keep initiating and to keep praying. That eventually she would find those connections she was looking for and that they would be worth the wait and the effort. Also I wanted to encourage those of us (I’m talking to myself now) who already have close friendships to keep your circles broken – to never be so comfortable with your own circle of friends that you can’t be a friend to the woman who needs one. It doesn’t mean you have to be her best friend, but I encourage you to be open to making new friends, even if you have your own “crew”. It’s hard being alone and on the outside, especially in a place like church where everyone should “belong”. I just read this blog post on Keep Your Circle Broken: When It’s Hard Making Friends (make sure you read Part Two as well) and it really encouraged and convicted me, and I hope it will do the same for you.
Have you been having a hard time making or building friendships at church? I’m sorry it’s been difficult for you, as church should probably be one of the easier places to build those kinds of connections. If you have any suggestions on how we can make church a better place for friendships to be built and fostered, or if you have any questions on friendships in general, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.